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Making Private Shacks Conform To Guidelines

THE National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) has prepared an integrated draft report on beach carrying capacity in which it has laid down that only 33 per cent of the private land could be used by a private operator to set up a shack. The NCSCM final report would set out a clear-cut and uniform policy for operation of shacks, huts, tents, cottages and stalls in private properties, many of whom violated coastal zone regulations. In the absence of a well-defined policy and guidelines, the field has been left open for unscrupulous elements to set up shacks and other structures without paying necessary fees to the government. The allotment of shacks has been withheld because carrying capacity has not been decided as yet. The government machinery is now trying to dismantle the shacks set up without allotment and licence and payment of fees.
Shacks on beaches and private properties are a defining feature of tourism in Goa and attract a large number of tourists. While most of the shacks are on beaches and get licence for operations from the government authorities, those in private properties near the beaches come under different regulations. The success of shacks and the prosperity they brought to the owners prompted every person living close to a beach to seek permissions and set up a shack or cottage or hut. Those who could not get permission disregarded the law and set up shacks illegally. While action was taken against some, there were many who using influence or bribe managed to escape. The state has come out with a policy to grant permission to set up shacks on beaches for three years. But there was a considerable delay in finalizing it, as a result of which the applicants lost two months in the beginning of the tourist season. While beach shack policy was approved and implemented, the policy regarding private shacks is still hanging fire and could now be finalized and implemented in the New Year only, unless the process is expedited. The government should try to finalize it before the election code of conduct comes into force; otherwise it will have to wait for clearance by the new government.
In the absence of a clear policy on shacks on private properties, many illegalities have been committed, which has resulted in unwanted litigation – both for the government and the shack owners – and has resulted in orders being passed against the owners, which the government has been forced to carry out. The absence of private shack policy has resulted in different government agencies passing the buck to one another to fix the responsibilities for illegalities and action to end them. There have been cases like a hundred shacks having been set up on a single property in North Goa and 20 shacks on a single property in South Goa. Among the other illegalities that have been noted is setting up of shacks on sand dunes which was banned in 2014. Though the previous policy laid down that shacks be set up farthest from the high tide line, which has been declared as no development zone, and construction of multi-level structures on private land be restricted, many entrepreneurs failed to follow the guidelines. The interim report of the new policy has suggested a setback of at least 3 metres between the sand dune line and the shack and beach vegetation. The suggestion that only 33 per cent of the land could be used for setting up shack will go a long way in containing the number of shacks on private land.
As the absence of a policy has resulted in passing of the responsibility from one government agency to another, it is necessary that a law should be framed to regulate shacks and other structures and their operations on private land and ensure uniform implementation of the policy. Given the fact that the shacks – on beaches or private lands – have been serving a large number of tourists and generate employment and contribute to the state exchequer, the government should ponder on having a long- term policy as it will be beneficial to all. Besides, the changes to the policies should be planned much before the start of season and the process completed before the season starts so that the shack owners and tourists could get full benefit out of the timely government decision making. While framing the policies the authorities have to keep in mind the guidelines issued by the statutory bodies and orders of the National Green Tribunal and Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority to ensure that eco-friendly materials were used for setting up shacks and least damage is caused to environment.

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